Friday, August 27, 2010


"Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people.  Sanctify the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast.  Let the bridegroom leave his room & the bride her canopy."
(Joel 1:15-16)

We don't mess around with warnings here in Hawaii - at least when it comes to the weather.  A few years back, Hurricane Iniki ripped through Kauai, doing major damage.  Last year we had a tsunami warning and the whole island chain shut down for half a day.  We have these "disaster alert" warning sirens stationed strategically all over the state.  They get tested every month on the first working day at 11:45am.  Every month.  We all know the sound.

The prophet Joel is calling the people of Israel to task.  They need to repent.  There's danger coming & he wants the trumpet warning cries to sound.  Which got me thinking... what would it take to get all of us in Hawaii to repent & refocus on God?  What if the disaster warning sirens started blaring... and people turned on their TVs or radios... and the announcement came: "We haven't lived like we should.  Disaster will soon be here!  Repent!  Ask God for forgiveness.  Ask your family for forgiveness.  Recenter your lives and hearts in God's mercy!  Hurry!!!"

I wonder... would anybody listen?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A marked man!

"So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus."
(John 12:10)

It was one of the most famous funerals in all history (or maybe it should be considered a "non-funeral Funeral"!).  Having been dead three days, Lazarus was raised to life by Jesus - his friend (John 11)!  Wrapped in grave cloths and stinking up his tomb, Lazarus came walking out at Jesus' divine command.  What a dramatic moment.  What a powerful testimony Lazarus now had!!!

Evidently, many others thought so, too.  One chapter later (John 12), we're told that many came out to both hear Jesus speak, AND TO SEE LAZARUS - the one Jesus had brought back to life.  So many came that the religious leaders became uncomfortable.  They'd already committed themselves to bringing down Jesus.  Now they added Lazarus to the list.  He, too, must die!  He was a marked man.

This is another example of how evil opposes good.  God is at work to bring life, goodness & mercy to the world.  But not everyone finds that positive.  Evil reacts (often violently) to expressions of goodness in the world.  Those who have a testimony to God's grace can find themselves also being marked men (& women!).  But fear not.  God will never leave or forsake us.  H will help us endure and persevere amidst adversity.  Thanks be to God for this truth!  AMEN.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sphere of Influence

"The King of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, 'There is still one other by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies anything favorable about me, but only disaster.'"
(1 Kings 22:7-8)

King Jehoshaphat of Judah & King Ahab of Israel are debating launching a war together.  They asked the prophets of God, who all gave their blessing.  Wanting to make sure they've done their due diligence, Jehoshaphat asks if there was any other prophet who can seek God's wisdom?  "Yah, there's Micaiah.  But I hate him.  He never has anything good to say to me!" the king replies.  (Hey, at least he's honest!)

When the king's servant goes to bring Micaiah, he tells the prophet to give the king a favorable prophesy (which makes you wonder if the other were similarly "coached" beforehand?!?).  Before the two kings, Micaiah initially agrees with the other prophets.  "Go ahead.  God will bless you."  That's when Ahab lays into him.  "How many times have I told you to ONLY TELL ME THE TRUTH!?!?"  So Micaiah gives him the truth.  It will all end very badly.  Don't go to war.  Send the soldiers home.

For his truth, Micaiah is "rewarded" with imprisonment.  And reduced rations.  ("Didn't I tell you that he never says anything good about me?" says Ahab.)  Great.  So much for being a prophet with integrity.  Look where that leads.

As I think about this story, I see the immense pressure that people of influence have by others with MORE influence.  I've heard that many politicians begin their careers with high ideals and dreams of really making positive changes.  As time passes, however, they see how things actually get done.  Connections.  Alliances.  Favors.  Pay backs. Inevitably, corruption creeps in.  It's easy to condemn politicians... but this story says that we religious leaders can be influenced just as negatively - if we allow it.  Micaiah stayed true to his calling, despite the pressure.  Deep down, King Ahab knew.  He knew Micaiah had a connection to God.  And Micaiah stayed true.  He maintained his sphere of influece. 

May the same be said of me.  Help me, Lord!!!

LIke Superbowls & Oscars

[From 8/19/10]

"On that last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, 'Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink...'"
(John 7:37-38a)

It was a major festival - the Festival of Booths.  It commemorated Israel's wilderness wandering and God's provisions.  This week-long celebration remembered how God provided water when they were thirsty (from the rock Moses struck with his staff)... as well as looked ahead to the "wells of salvation" (Isaiah 12:3) tat will come with the Messiah - God's chosen Savior.

To observe this dual focus, a priest would take a golden pitcher and fill it with water from the Pool of Siloam... then march it up to the Temple in Jerusalem.  The people would follow him in a procession. This happened every day of the 7-day festival.  So imagine the irony (or divine timing!) when Jesus shows up on day 7... possibly in the middle of the golden pitcher procession... and announces to all who'll listen that if they're THIRSTY (really thirsty!), they can come to him and drink.

It would be kind of like Jesus showing up during the half-time show at the Superbowl and announcing to the world that if anyone wants to be a "true champion" they should come to him.  Or if he'd pop up in Hollywood at the Oscars and declare to the star-studded audience that it's only in His presence where one can be a "real winner."  (Theologically, you may take issue with these analogies, but socially & culturally, I think it's right on the mark!)

Jesus was such a great teacher, he used whatever context he was in to help people see the deeper truths of God.  Wherever he went, people were astonished at his teachings.  How awesome that we, too, can "hear" his wisdom through the pages of Scripture.  May I forever drink deeply from this wellspring of life!  AMEN.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


"Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated..."
(John 6:11)

It was dinnertime.  Jesus and his disciples had been teaching a multitude of people.  About five thousand to be exact.  Up in the mountains.  No fast food restaurants nearby.  "Where are we going to buy bread for everyone to eat?" Jesus playfully asks his group of followers.  "Yah right!" they retort.  "It'd take a half a year's salary - and even then, they'd only get a bite each!"

That's when Simon Peter noticed it.  A little boy's lunch.  Five barley loaves & two fish.  More than enough for a boy.  Nowhere near enough for a multitude.  But Peter mentioned it to Jesus anyway.  So Jesus asked everyone to sit down.  Then before distributing the meal he did something that could have easily gone unnoticed: he prayed.  He gave thanks! 

Imagine the thoughts in the disciples' minds at that exact moment.  'You're giving thanks?  For that!?!?!  Five loaves & two fish?  It's nowhere near enough!  Not exactly something to get excited about, Jesus.'  But Jesus knew that thankfulness was more a condition of the inner spirit of a person, rather than a condition of that same person's resources.  God can use anything to do whatever He needs done!  Especially a grateful & appreciative heart!

May it be the same for me... and you!  AMEN.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Chip off the Old Block

"Jesus said to them, 'Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.'"
(John 5:19)
I've read this passage from John many times... always thinking about the relationship between God & Jesus (Father & Son).  But today when I read it, I thought about me and my son, Ezra.  Ezra is 15 1/2 and a junior in high school.  He's an athlete.  He has a heart for younger children, and a good sense of humor.  He does well in school.  He loves his family.

There are a lot of similarities between me and my son... not only in looks but characteristics.  I also know he's his own person, and has unique aspects, too.  But when I read this verse today, it impressed upon me that Ezra is who he is largely because of who I am (and, of course, because of who my wife, Jody, is!).  What he's seen me do (or not do) is indelibly imprinted on his psyche.  My values, habits, actions, words, & endeavors shape my son - whether he likes it or not.

That's quite a daunting & humbling thought.  (Lord, help me be the man You need me to be, so Ezra can be the man You need him to be!)  It also tells me that I can know what God is like, because I know what Jesus is like, through stories in Scripture, and his presence in my life today.  I guess he's a chip off the old block!

Friday, August 13, 2010


MAN: "A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a garden locked, a fountain sealed."
WOMAN: "Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits."
(Song of Solomon 4:12, 16)

When you think about erotic books, the Bible does not usually come to mind.  In fact, Church (and church people) in general isn't (aren't) always that open to talk about sex & sexuality.  Then you come to the SONG OF SOLOMON (aka "Song of Songs") in the Old Testament.  And it kinda stops you cold in your tracks.

If you're unfamiliar with this short book of poetry, it's a love story between a man & woman.  They flatter each other.  They pour out their feelings.  They talk about their attraction & excitement for each other.  And they don't "beat around the bush" either!

In Jewish culture (or at least in the Hebrew culture of the Bible), after the wedding "ceremony," the entire wedding party would walk the couple back to the groom's home - into his "wedding chamber" - and wait outside while the couple consummated their marriage.  It was only after they made love together that they were considered to be "officially married."  And then the party would start with all of the guests outside!

It's too bad the church has lost its voice when it comes to celebrating sexuality.  "Don't do it!" is the usual phrase connected to Church & sex.  But that doesn't honor God's gift of sexuality.  We were created to love one another - in a committed, loving marriage, that's all.

In the meantime... keep those "gardens locked," so when it's finally time to enjoy one another completely, the "choicest fruits" will still be there for one's spouse.  Because then you've got a lifetime of playing in the gardens of love!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Enjoy your marriage!

"Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that are given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and your toil at which you toil under the sun."
(Ecclesiastes 9:9)

THE ONION is a spoof news site that creates attention-grabbing stories, marinated in humor, that cause people to re-examine their own opinions & (often cherished) beliefs.  The other day I came across a "special report" on a new law in Minnesota (remember, it's made-up, folks!)... to ban "loveless marriages."  Using a lot of the rhetoric that's swirling around now with the gay marriage issue, this short 3-minute news piece was brilliant!

Interviewing protesters, one activist says, "We didn't choose to feel nothing for each other, that's just the way we are!"  There was a scene of graffiti vandalism, with the following slogan spray painted on a neighborhood garage door: "GOD HATES STAYING TOGETHER FOR THE KIDS!" And citing the potential legal ramifications, should this bill pass, the reporter says, "If one spouse gets sick, the other can't visit them in the hospital to berate them about how much that medical bill will cost."  Classic.

The writer of Ecclesiastes put it simply, "Enjoy life with the wife whom you love."  Amen to that!

PS.  Here's the link if you want to watch it yourself:,14401/

rooted & grounded

[From 8/9/10]

"I pray that... Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith,a s you are being rooted & grounded in love."
(Ephesians 3:17)

What would it mean to be "rooted & grounded in love"?  If we were to think of a tree... it would be planted in love.  Love would be not only touching the trunk where it enters the ground, but would be well below, too.  Root systems of some trees run quite deep.  Being rooted means all of the nutrients & water comes through the love-soaked soil in and around the roots.  Likewise, what the tree becomes will be heavily shaped by love.  Heavily.

What an image for Christians.  That we may be rooted & grounded in love.  That love (to love or not to love) wouldn't be an "option" of ours to choose or reject.  No!  It would be everything about us!  We'd be surrounded in love so every nutrient, everything that shaped us and gave us energy would have at its core LOVE.  How would that change our interactions with others? What we did... or said... or thought?

How is this even possible?  The author of Ephesians says that Christ dwells in our hearts.  He is love.  He is THE CENTER of all.  That's being rooted & grounded. 

Bring it on!

Friday, August 6, 2010

A caution to us pastors...

"Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds; for riches do not last forever, nor a crown for all generations..."
(Proverbs 27:23-24)

"Don't forget where you came from" is a saying usually reserved for those who've ascended to some position of height.  It's partly about remembering one's roots, and partly about the dangers of newfound power.  The writer of Proverbs knows this - but from a more practical standpoint.  A shepherd may rise tot he status of KING (a la David)... but there will come a time when all that fades.  So, the wisdom of the writer is this: "Don't forget your flocks!"  Pay attention to what you did before you became king.  Take care of your sheep & goats - because someday you'll need them again (see v.26-27 for the practical application).

I was first attracted to this because of the first verse, "Know well the condition of your flocks." It seemed like wise advice to all us pastors.  Make sure you stay in touch with your people.  Don't be so involved in the "administration" of leading a church, that you forget the people you're supposed to be shepherding.

But the context of the following verses caused me to reflect in a different way.  As a pastor, if I were to take this wisdom to heart, it might be telling me not to assume that I'll always live the life of a pastor.  In many ways, we pastors have a lot of privilege.  We're given many benefits as part of this position.  But we're also placed in close proximity to the Divine on a regular basis.  Granted, God is everywhere... and all have the same access to God... but there is a perceived "spiritual exaltation" for pastors. 

Maybe this section from Proverbs is a reminder to "give attention" to our hearts... to our spiritual lives.  Don't assume the position of "pastor" is enough to "live on" for life.  We are called to do the dirty work (wait... maybe "get our hands dirty" is a better expression) of our spiritual life (like everyone else has to!).  Because, let's face it... if all we have is the title of "Pastor," but little or no ongoing spiritual under-pinings, we're in serious trouble.  We can't skate by on past spiritual moments.  We have to maintain that relationship with God all the time.  "For riches do not last forever, nor a crown for all generations." 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Not-so-trivial Pursuits

"Let us then pursue what makes for peace & for mutual upbringing."
(Romans 14:19)

I believe it was Thumper in the classic Disney movie BAMBI who said, 'If you can't say somethun' nice, don't say anything at all!'  (Actually, he was quoting his mom's advice, wasn't he!).  I wonder if we, in contemporary American culture, have lost sight of this wisdom?  We seem so quick to criticize, judge, complain & argue with anyone we have a difference with.  Our "right" to speak our mind often trumps the call for kindness.

Paul was facing a challenge in the early church.  Some believers were openly criticizing (and condemning) other believers because of what they did or didn't eat (notably, food that had been sacrificed to other gods & then resold on the open market).  Those in the faith began tearing one another down, and it made Paul's heart sick.  Rather than lay give the definitive declaration of WHO'S RIGHT, Paul instead urged them to simply "pursue what makes for peace & mutual upbringing."

We could go a long way if we followed that advice today.  Pursue peace & mutual upbringing.  How would our days change if we were intentional about not putting others down or seeking to interject how others were wrong all the time?  How would it change our interactions with our spouse, children, co-workers, people at Starbucks (even, dare I say it, fellow drivers on the road?!?)?  Who knows... I just might become a little more like Jesus.

Where LOVE is...

[From 8/1/10]

"Better is little with the fear of the LORD, than great treasure & trouble with it.  Better is a dinner of vegetables where love is, than a fatted ox and hatred with it."
(Proverbs 15:16-17)

Jesus once told a parable that ended with the statement, 'What would it benefit a man to gain the world and forfeit his soul?'  That seems to echo through this passage from Proverbs 15: "Better is a little with the fear of the LORD, than great treasure and trouble with it."

Too often in this life we get drawn into this consumer culture (or is it just me?!?).  We feel like we need more "cool stuff": flat screen TV, HD compatible, 3D with those cool glasses, etc.  A newer car.  "Hipper" clothes.  More tunes on our iPod (or just maybe we should upgrade to the newest iPhone!?!).  Ann that's just the 'little' stuff!  Some feel the need to work multiple jobs (or late hours) to provide the "niceties" for their family - yet lose out on time spent together.  We we get so caught up with our new stuff (ie. technology) that we choose to do THAT rather than interact in a meaningful way with those closest to us.

Slow down.  Scale back.  Simplify.  Enjoy.  Cherish.  Invest in PEOPLE and relationships!  LOVE... and the blessings will flow.  For where love is...